Back in April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum and death rates began to rise, the world went into a full-fledged lockdown. Over 3.9 billion people in over 90 countries were forced to isolate themselves. And since only businesses deemed as “essential” were allowed to operate during the lockdown, nonessential businesses such as malls, cinemas, salons, cafes, and barbershops were forced to shut down.

The education sector also took a major hit due to the pandemic. At its peak, schools in around 45 countries were forced to shut down, affecting roughly 185 million students. The higher education sector got completely disrupted. Many colleagues and universities were left thinking about how they would adapt to the new normal and recruit students to keep their businesses afloat. This is where the higher ed sector embraced technology – coming up with new student recruitment strategies. 

Nowadays, in the current landscape, higher education institutions invest heavily in marketing. It’s now quite common for colleges and universities to hire professionals for SEO and paid advertising (PPC). That being said, with intense competition, a shift in demographics, and chaos in admissions processes, standing out from other established educational institutes is becoming a challenge.

To help you stand apart and create a strong brand presence for your higher education institute, we came up with a list of the top college recruitment strategies that are widely used all over the world. So without waiting anymore, let’s get started!

What is the Meaning of Student Recruitment?

Student recruitment is the process of carefully finding and recruiting the most ideal students for an educational institution in a cost-effective and timely manner.

The recruitment process involves a set of strategic marketing tactics carried out by universities, colleges, and schools to attract, entice and convert individuals to enroll in your programs.

The student recruitment process for higher education institutes includes:

  • Defining your school’s academic requirements
  • Coming up with marketing strategies to attract students
  • Screening and shortlisting the best applicants
  • Staying in touch with students and providing them with assistance

The student recruitment process can be carried out by professionals like course instructors or HODs who can build a relationship with prospecting by briefing them about your school and providing them with support during the admission process.

The 3 Stages of Student Recruitment

The student recruitment process basically has 3 stages:

  1. Inquiries
  2. Applicants
  3. Admitted students

After these 3 stages of your marketing funnel, you can enroll a student in your school’s programs. This process is known as the admissions enrollment funnel, which is essential for any educational institution that wants to attract new students and increase enrollment rates.

Let’s go through these stages and see the goals, key metrics, and examples of each stage of the student recruitment funnel.

1. Student inquiries (TOFU)


Establish a relationship with prospective students and their families. Also, collect their inquiries and questions and answer all of them to help students make up their minds. 

Key metrics for this goal: 

  • Number of inquiries received
  • Total website visitors
  • Total number of social media engagement
  • Demographics of people engaging with your school


For the first stage of the student recruitment funnel (TOFU), start by identifying the right students to reach out to for your school. Once you’ve found your ideal students, invite them to an open-day event and email marketing to let them learn about your school.

Email marketing for higher education refers to the use of email communication to reach and engage potential students and their families. This type of marketing aims to promote the benefits and unique features of a university, college, or educational institution to a target audience.

2. Student applications (MOFU)


Once you’ve answered all the inquiries your school received, the next goal of your student recruitment strategy would be to increase the number of student applications. 

Key metrics for this goal: 

  • Number of incomplete applications
  • Number of completed applications
  • Demographics of applicants


To increase student applications, make the registration process easy. Tell them how to apply for your school programs. Guide them through all the steps. If they still have doubts, encourage them to visit your college, school, or university before registering and interacting with current students online or in person. To create a sense of urgency, email potential students and inform them about the last date to apply for your program. You can also share your education institutes’ prices and programs.

3. Students admitted (BOFU)


After processing student applications, admit only those students in your programs who are likely to enroll. Develop a plan to cater to the needs of students enrolling from diverse backgrounds.

Key metrics for this goal: 

  • Number of applications received
  • Number of applications shortlisted
  • Number of applications approved and finalized


To get the most ideal candidates to enroll in your programs, start by going through the applications of only those students who are likely to enroll. Once shortlisted, interview those students to assess further if they’re the right fit for your school. To get admitted students to enroll, send out gentle reminders via mail about deadlines.

Top Student Recruitment Strategies To Get More Students

Recruiting the right students for your school is now harder than ever. With immense competition, it has gotten extremely tough for higher-ed institutions to stand out from the crowd. That said, getting students to enroll in your school is not impossible.

Let’s check out the top 7 recruitment strategies for colleges that can help you get more students in 2023.

1. Establish goals

Before thinking about recruiting students, you’ll need to put your school’s vision into perspective. Where do you see your higher education institution? What do you want to achieve? Create a broad goal for your school, college, or university. Once you’ve established your broad goal, come up with smaller goals that you wish to achieve in a set time frame. For example, your school’s goal is to enroll 50 students within a period of a month. Keeping your broad goal in mind, establish short goals. 

2. Take a look at previous enrolment data

When recruiting new students, you can take a look at your previous enrolment data and devise a strategy from there. This strategy is pretty common in paid marketing and is referred to as “lookalike audiences”. 

Dive deep into the data of already existing students to dissect:

  • Where do the majority of existing students come from? 
  • Did your existing students change cities or countries to enroll in your school?
  • What made your existing student pick your school, college, or university?
  • Which marketing channel helped you generate the most student inquiries?

Using the data of existing students, you can come up with a marketing campaign to find laser-focused students for your higher education institution.

3. Host an open house event

While marketing is great, hosting a physical or virtual open house event will help you recruit students more effectively. Invite students to your event and allow them to experience everything your school has to offer for themselves through physical or virtual campus tours. During your event, you can collect the names and contact details of prospective students. Once your event is over, you can run a retargeting campaign through Facebook to attract new student leads.

4.  Engage with your potential students

When making any big decision, a million questions go through our heads. Unless we get the answers we need, it becomes really difficult for us to make a decision. Students face this dilemma when picking out a school to join. This is why engaging with your potential students and answering all of their questions is crucial. You’ll need to be prepared with stats related to your alumni that you can quote when asked by prospecting students. 

Stay active on social media and share video content related to your school and programs. You should also encourage existing students to share their experiences with your school. This will help potential students gain valuable insights into your school.

5. Use social media to talk about your school’s perks

Social Media is where students spend most of their time. According to statistics, 90% of teens aged between 13-17 use social media. Considering this, social media is the perfect marketing channel to recruit students. Leverage the power of social media to generate leads and then nurture those leads until you can get them to convert.

6. Create a trustworthy and enticing website

When researching schools, students will go through your school’s website before they make up their minds. If your website looks professional and answers student queries at a glance, you will be able to do more lead generation for universities.

More leads = more revenue.

When creating a website, content marketing for universities needs to incorporate eye-catching content on your web pages.

A well-designed higher education website must:

  • Have an enticing headline that targets a specific audience
  • Have a strong call to action (CTA)
  • Have a well-designed registration form
  • Provide multiple options for students to get in touch with your school such as chatbox, forms, emails, phone numbers, etc

7. Hire a Professional Higher Education marketing agency

As we mentioned earlier, recruiting students is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop effective college admissions recruitment strategies. When it comes to recruiting new students, especially in the higher education industry, it is best to leave the job to professionals.

Here at Orion, we specialize in helping higher education institutions tackle the two most important challenges: 

  • Recruit new students
  • Strengthen alumni relationships

We help schools stand out from the crowd. Our higher education marketing experts run aggressive marketing campaigns that help out clients increase their brand exposure to attract more students.

Using both paid marketing (PPC) and SEO, we make it easy for prospecting students to find your school. We use clever higher education marketing strategies, including remarketing, to find the most ideal prospects for schools that we know are bound to convert.

For each student enrolled, colleges and universities spend between $429 and $623 on marketing each year

Are you looking for an experienced, creative, and innovative digital marketing team to help promote your higher education program?

Think Orion specializes in helping universities, colleges, and educational institutions bridge the gap between the traditional higher education model and new digital learning opportunities.


How Do You Recruit More Students?

Still confused?

Wondering how to recruit college students?

To recruit more students for your school, you must come up with a sound strategy. If you follow the best strategies we’ve talked about in this guide, you’ll be able to recruit new students in no time. But in addition to following the strategies we talked about earlier, you must also:  

  1. Research and invest in a widely used university admissions software
  2. Run social media marketing campaigns.
  3. Engage with current students. 
  4. Make your recruitment events worth remembering.
  5. Be consistent in your efforts.


As the higher ed industry goes digital, it is hard to ignore the benefits of implementing a sound student recruitment strategy. Implementing a recruitment system that can enhance the experience of prospecting students by answering their queries and removing their doubts can help higher education institutions drastically increase their enrollment numbers.

We hope you found the student recruitment ideas and best practices for recruiting high school students mentioned in this guide helpful. Along with that Think Orion as an ed tech ads agency identifies that universities should update their digital assets to develop students’ status.

You should read higher education marketing trends to boost your strategy. Do let us know if we missed anything.